1888 - AN EXPRESS TRAIN WRECKED. AND BOTH THE ENGINEER AND FIREMAN WERE KILLED.
BELLOWS FALLS, Vt., April 7. - The night express train on the Vermont Central Railroad which left Boston at 7 o'clock last night was wrecked about 10:40 o'clock by a washout near Rockingham, five miles north of this place. The engineer, Moses Pratt, of Rutland, and the fireman, John Pratt, of Rutland, were instantly killed, and several persons injured. The train reached this station at 10"30 o'clock. At this point it was taken in charge by Conductor Whitney. The train consisted of the engine and tender, one baggage and express car, a first-class passenger coach and a Wagner car with passengers for Ottawa. About a quarter of a mile north of Rockingham there is a long embankment about 100 feet high. Just as the train started over this embankment the left side of the single track gave way and the engine left the roadway and toppled down the embankment nearly into the Williams River, followed by the baggage car, which contained 12 passengers, followed suit and landed on end half way down the embankment. Wonderful to relate, the Wagner car, which was well filled with passengers, kept on top of the embankment, although the forward track left the rail.
News of the accident was sent to Bellows Falls by means of a hand car, Conductor Whitney going with a section hand for assistance. At Cavendish Station the train bound south from Ottawa was waiting for the north-bound train. As the latter did not put in appearance after a delay of 40 minutes past the regular time of arrival, the conductor of the south-bound train routed up the telegraph operator at his boarding house, and, going back to the station, telegraphed to Bellows Falls, and learned of the disaster. The south-bound train immediately proceeded to the scene of the accident. The sight when the wreck was reached was appalling. The baggage and express car was on fire, and the flames lighted up the scene in a weird and awful manner. The roar of rushing waters passing through a culvert beyond were distinctly heard. On the side of the embankment where the train was lying the railway employes were seen searching for the dead and wounded. It was ascertained that none of the passengers in the passenger car, which was standing on end, were seriously injured.
Engineer Pratt was found dead near his engine, his head having been completely removed. His body was placed in the baggage car of a relief train, which had arrived from Bellows Fall. The fireman was found between the tender and the burning baggage car. His position showed that the poor fellow must have been thrown completely over the tender in the fall of the train. His face was somewhat bruised, and he was dead. The body was placed beside that of the engineer, and both were sent to their house. Dr. Guildford, one of those on the Wagner car, rendered efficient service, and after an examination of the passengers, announced that none were seriously hurt.
The south-bound passengers were transferred to the relief train and proceeded to Bellows Falls, thence to Fitchburg and Boston. In the express car were Express Messenger Otis and Baggagemaster Simonds, both of Rutland, and a passenger named Michael Tynan of Bellows Falls, who had just entered the car on an errand. They all escaped serious injury, although badly shaken and scratched.
Those injured in the passenger car, so far as known, were: D. E. Burdick of Middlebury, Vt., sprained left ankle, scalp wound, back injured seriously; Mary Lovely, Essex Junction, Vt., cut in back of hand and arm, not serious; Mrs. Lewis Moore, Burlington, Vt., injury to left leg, and her child, Anna Moore, aged 5, injured in left groin; Mrs. Mark Gibson, Sheldon Springs, Vt., injury to head, shoulders, and hip. These were taken to their homes in a Pullman sleeper, under the care of Dr. John Mead of Rutland.
The passengers in the Wagner car were bound for Rutland, Burlington, and St. Albans. James Godfrey, soliciting freight agent for the Chicago and Milwaukee Railroad, was one of the Wagner car occupants. The entire contents of the baggage car - express matter and baggage - were destroyed.
From appearances the culvert was hardly large enough to carry off a body of water swollen by heavy rains, and the presence of so much water at the base of the embankment must have weakened the earthworks to such an extent as to allow a certain amount of displacement.
Moses Pratt, the engineer, was about 55 years old and one of the oldest engineers on the road. He leaves a widow and one married daughter. John Pratt, the fireman, nephew of the engineer, was about 23 years old, and leaves a widow.
The New York Times
New York, New York
April 8, 1888
Visit Rockingham, Vermont, USA (Bellows Falls)
Discover the people who lived there, the places they visited and the stories they shared.